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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 06-22-2013, 07:12 PM
Augster Augster is offline
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Question Ruptured Cooling Line = Tranny Warning Light; repaired all but still won't engage

My inlet transmission cooler line broke and dumped all the transmission fluid while I was on freeway causing transmission warning light with exclamation point to come on. Little did I know I lost my ATF but the car still maintained my speed of 65MPH. Drove only 5 miles/5 minutes to nearest off ramp then pulled over. Would no longer engage. Towed it home and today I replaced the inlet cooler line, transmission cooler, and transmission filter, then went through the top-off procedure needing 9 quarts but the transmission still will not engage and the Transmission Warning light is still on. The transmission and old fluid did not smell any different than the new Valvoline MaxLife ATF (no burning smell). The pan had no debris and there was only barely the hint of sludge which I attribute to normal wear and tear of its 95,000 miles.

Do I have to clear the error codes first to get the electronics to let transmission finally work correctly, or am I screwed and need a new transmission?

There were absolutely no transmission issues before this SNAFU.
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Last edited by Augster; 06-22-2013 at 07:18 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-22-2013, 07:15 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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It would help to check and clear codes. What year is that car? What transmission? And I'm sure some are curious too, how did you rupture that line, did a belt break on you? I don't hear of that mode of failure often.
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Old 06-22-2013, 07:20 PM
Augster Augster is offline
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Basic 2003 325i, transmission code A5S 325Z. Previous owner had simply "hose clamped" the inlet hose to cooler (the original hose end was cut off). When I was examining this kludge, I noticed coat hanger wire also wrapped around it somewhat, so I took that off. I now believe that coat wire was truly what was keeping that hose on the cooler barb.
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Old 06-22-2013, 07:34 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
Basic 2003 325i, transmission code A5S 325Z. Previous owner had simply "hose clamped" the inlet hose to cooler (the original hose end was cut off). When I was examining this kludge, I noticed coat hanger wire also wrapped around it somewhat, so I took that off. I now believe that coat wire was truly what was keeping that hose on the cooler barb.
Damn, sorry to hear. If you were any closer I would have driven over and get those codes read/reset. I'm sure someone will volunteer their help soon.
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Old 06-22-2013, 07:43 PM
Augster Augster is offline
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I bought the cheap Chinese BMW Scanner tool and received it at the same time my parts came in, but haven't fired it up because I have Windows 7 x64 and the car is on the street and may not be within WiFi range of my network, which I will need to install the right driver when attaching the scan tool.

Anyways, it's been a loooong day as not only did I replace the cooler and inlet line, but I replaced my expansion tank and both upper and lower air intake boots. So very busy but productive day. I'm resting for a moment before getting dinner, then I'm going to try to get BMW Scanner running and go from there...
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Old 06-22-2013, 10:05 PM
Augster Augster is offline
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I finally got BMW Scanner up and running (unplugging and replugging the device is not reliably recognized by Win7 and I have to wiggle the dang connections at the ODB port all the time so far) and initial codes under the EGS were:

DTC HEX Description
3B 059 Stalling Speed
41 065 Gear Check 4 (ENP)

Cleared and was able to get the car drivable, but when I got up to speed by the next block it seemed to slip when it shifted into 4th while accelerating, warning light came on and upon stopping the car, tranny wouldn't engage. Luckily, I brought the laptop. Codes read were:

38 056 System GLUE
31 049 System gear check
36 054 Gear check 4
41 065 Gear Check 4 (ENP)
3B 059 Stalling Speed

Clearing and arriving back home, again when I hit 4th and it seemed to slip if I tried to accelerate, light came on, and final codes for the night were:

31 049 System gear check
36 054 Gear check 4
41 065 Gear Check 4 (ENP)

All symptoms appear to be with 4th gear. My last hope is that since I was doing the ATF top-off dance with shifting the tranny 10 times, it wasn't really circulating fluid into all the nooks and crannies since the computer had disabled the transmission shifts, so it's possible its still low on ATF, even after pumping in 9 full quarts. Spec says this tranny uses 9.2 qts when including torque converter, and since I went way past the 6.5 qts used when excluding the torque converter, I'm assuming the tranny went completely dry and is still shy a couple pints. Don't have time to top-off until Monday, so crossing my fingers then that filling it will solve the issue.

Worse case, it seems only 4th gear mechanicals would need to be rebuilt/replaced and not the entire transmission. I can live with that cost if it comes to it; not the $6,000 (before tax) for the dealership quoted me to put in a new transmission.
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Last edited by Augster; 06-22-2013 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 06-23-2013, 06:58 PM
computerwhiz1 computerwhiz1 is offline
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yikes man, sorry to hear you dumped all of your fluid. Hopefully you didn't fry your transmission.
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Old 06-24-2013, 02:16 PM
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After topping off the ATF a second time, the issue still remains: shifting into 4th gear either slips or is a rough shift then same errors codes (if it slips). On a bit of a positive note, even if the warning light comes on, if I pull over and turn the engine off then back on, the warning light is cleared and I can continue to drive... until the next fault.

I have no recourse but to have a transmission expert check it out...
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Old 06-24-2013, 02:29 PM
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A non-dealer BMW specialist I've talked to thinks the Valvoline Maxlife ATF I used could be causing the issues. When I told him I read about this on BMW forums and many others have used this ATF with zero issues, he was still wary and said he's never heard of anyone using non-OEM ATF. I told him I personally don't think this particular ATF could be anywhere near the cause for the problems but he also pointed out that I should have topped off the ATF with the tranny temp at 100 degrees. As I was going by another thread that said to touch the transmission pan and it should be warn but not hot to the touch, and that's what I did when topping off.
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Old 06-24-2013, 03:29 PM
cvx5832 cvx5832 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
A non-dealer BMW specialist I've talked to thinks the Valvoline Maxlife ATF I used could be causing the issues. When I told him I read about this on BMW forums and many others have used this ATF with zero issues, he was still wary and said he's never heard of anyone using non-OEM ATF. I told him I personally don't think this particular ATF could be anywhere near the cause for the problems but he also pointed out that I should have topped off the ATF with the tranny temp at 100 degrees. As I was going by another thread that said to touch the transmission pan and it should be warn but not hot to the touch, and that's what I did when topping off.
That brand ATF, while definitely not BMW original equipment, has been used with success here and elsewhere. I also doubt that's it, especially since it only happens on 4th gear.

According to TIS, correct fill is achieved when it starts streaming (not gushing) from the fill at hole at 50degF, or about 122degF. From the 6 times I've change mine on both cars I'll tell you it only takes a few minutes to get to that temperature from a cold start. I start, fill, cycle through the gears, fill again, cycle through the gears again and it's at the recommended max temperature. Unless you've been driving around prior to doing the fill procedure, you were probably at or close to 100 and are fine.

At this point the transmission shop may be your next step. Fluid pressurizes the piston which engages the clutch packs. When you lost pressure, I wouldn't be surprised if the transmission started slipping at 4th, and burned out the clutch packs as you drove it the next five miles.
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Old 06-24-2013, 03:49 PM
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I concur with your assessment as that's what I have been thinking all along. The ATF temp may not have been optimal when topping off, but all the symptoms are in 4th gear which leads me to believe it's not really a fluid level issue due to the circumstances of the initial failure to begin with. Maybe the transmission is really that sensitive if I'm off by a couple pints, but I have no idea what the operating tolerances are this transmission. Fluid was streaming out in thick "string" during my top-off this morning; fluid was warm against my latex gloves.
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Old 06-24-2013, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
I concur with your assessment as that's what I have been thinking all along. The ATF temp may not have been optimal when topping off, but all the symptoms are in 4th gear which leads me to believe it's not really a fluid level issue due to the circumstances of the initial failure to begin with. Maybe the transmission is really that sensitive if I'm off by a couple pints, but I have no idea what the operating tolerances are this transmission. Fluid was streaming out in thick "string" during my top-off this morning; fluid was warm against my latex gloves.
I think you've done what you can, kudos for trying. You can take a gamble at rebuilding it yourself, but who knows what that may bring. At least with a shop you know it WILL get fixed, just a matter of how much.

Report back to this thread and let us know what happens. It will be a good record of what happens in a fluid-takes-a-dump scenario.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:47 PM
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The independent BMW shop I mentioned earlier quoted $3,650 for a complete R&R with a rebuilt unit covered by a 2 year warranty. 3 days in the shop.

Found a 5-speed manual from a 2002 330i going at $300 or best offer for just the tranny and nothing else, but in "perfect" condition with only 83k. It got me to thinking of a auto-manual swap, but I'm not sure this 330i tranny will fit a 325i, and what all the parts I would need (clutch pedal, clutch cylinder, linkage, flywheel, clutch, console boot, shift knob, and who knows what else; driveshaft??).
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:21 AM
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The Update

The bill came out to $3,300 with tax. Reputable local transmission shop had to fully rebuild transmission and torque converter: there was burnt up residue found in abundance, especially coming from the torque converter. Three clutch packs for 4th gear were scorched. To reduce costs, they got used refurbished clutch packs (BMW wanted $1,600 for a new set). Tranny will have a 2 year/24,000 mile warranty so I have no worries over the refurb'd parts.

Certainly an expensive lesson: a perfectly functioning transmission can get totally screwed if it runs empty of ATF for even just a few minutes. If that transmission warning light comes on with exclamation point, pull over immediately and tow it.
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Old 07-26-2013, 08:33 AM
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Ouch. I'd have purchased a used one for $900 and been done. But at least you have piece of mind and that is worth something (maybe not $3300 though, ouch!)
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now, go burn your Man Card, and buy yourself a Camry....
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Old 07-26-2013, 08:52 AM
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Believe me, I wanted sorely to DIY with a used tranny but couldn't find any locally after searching for a month. There are few examples on eBay and they would typically cost around $1k with shipping, but I felt the chances of getting one that is close to failure is just too great for me to chance. I certainly hate spending over half of the cost of the vehicle on the tranny (I got the car for only $5k) but if I put in a "recycled" one that has the potential of crapping out on me within a year, that would be even worse, not to mention that with a SULEV, there exists the possibility that a mismatched tranny/torque converter may lead to a SES light; it happened to my girlfriend's car when she went el cheapo tranny shop and the replacement transmission they installed was not the correct one according to the computer resulting in a CEL and smog failure. The shop was practically stonewalling her in replacing the tranny again (you get what you pay for...).

But I will say it has now provided impetus for me to "upgrade" to a higher-model E46: a ZHP. Having a rebuilt tranny with warranty on a car under 100k may have a better resale value now. I certainly have lost money on this, but there's a clean title, excellent condition 2005 ZHP for under $10k (heck, I've already spent that much on my plain jane) so I'm at the point of saying "what the heck" and deciding to go for it if the ZHP for sale inspects cleanly.
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Last edited by Augster; 07-26-2013 at 08:58 AM.
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Old 07-26-2013, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augster View Post
Believe me, I wanted sorely to DIY with a used tranny but couldn't find any locally after searching for a month. There are few examples on eBay and they would typically cost around $1k with shipping, but I felt the chances of getting one that is close to failure is just too great for me to chance. I certainly hate spending over half of the cost of the vehicle on the tranny (I got the car for only $5k) but if I put in a "recycled" one that has the potential of crapping out on me within a year, that would be even worse, not to mention that with a SULEV, there exists the possibility that a mismatched tranny/torque converter may lead to a SES light; it happened to my girlfriend's car when she went el cheapo tranny shop and the replacement transmission they installed was not the correct one according to the computer resulting in a CEL and smog failure. The shop was practically stonewalling her in replacing the tranny again (you get what you pay for...).

But I will say it has now provided impetus for me to "upgrade" to a higher-model E46: a ZHP. Having a rebuilt tranny with warranty on a car under 100k may have a better resale value now. I certainly have lost money on this, but there's a clean title, excellent condition 2005 ZHP for under $10k (heck, I've already spent that much on my plain jane) so I'm at the point of saying "what the heck" and deciding to go for it if the ZHP for sale inspects cleanly.

ZHP's are getting to be really cheap. I saw a really nice one locally for $7500. And ANY E46 is better than the SULEV IMO.
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Old 07-26-2013, 11:30 AM
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ZHP's are getting to be really cheap. I saw a really nice one locally for $7500.
None that cheap in SoCal, and those that are sub-$10k are typically salvage; not the one I saw for $9,800 with 116k. And my favorite color of black-on-black.

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And ANY E46 is better than the SULEV IMO.
I agree, but wasn't aware of these special E46's sold specifically in Cali, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont until after the purchase. The long warranty can certainly come in handy, so long as you are in that warranty period.
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Old 07-26-2013, 03:30 PM
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None that cheap in SoCal, and those that are sub-$10k are typically salvage; not the one I saw for $9,800 with 116k. And my favorite color of black-on-black.



I agree, but wasn't aware of these special E46's sold specifically in Cali, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont until after the purchase. The long warranty can certainly come in handy, so long as you are in that warranty period.
I feel for you man. Several months ago, I had to fork over $1000 for a new timing belt on my 2006 Acura MDX. They are supposed to last 105K or 7 years. I only have 25K on the vehicle, but the 7 years were up. Could I have chanced it? Possibly, but it is an interference engine, and a new motor is 5-7K so I coughed it up. It pi$$ed me off, but sometimes you just have to soak you a$$ and move on. Good luck!
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